Sink Beneath the Sun

There’s a roar of fifty thousand voices shining in Chris’s head. It’s the way it feels, like he’s broadcasting something bigger and stronger than he’s capable of.

When Chris was young, he used to wait and wait at the top of the school steps on cloudy days before running home from primary school. Tim DiMarco sneered that Chris was afraid of getting thumped by Mikey Harris. He wasn’t. Melissa Maniapoto giggled to her friends that Chris didn’t have a raincoat so he had to try and run faster than the rain. He didn’t have a coat, but that wasn’t what he was doing. Mrs Browning asked him once if he had to hurry home to help his mum with his sisters. He did, but that wasn’t why he ran.

It was the light.

On cloudy days sometimes the sun would break through the clouds. It would be shining and golden and reach for the ground. It was beautiful.

It was terrifying.

Chris knew that the rays of light were God’s fingers. And if God wanted you, he’d surely get you. And being touched by God – if you were poor and had second-hand clothes and talked back to Father O’Reilly because you didn’t understand why Eve got punished for eating the apple even though it was Satan’s fault really – meant that you’d be dead and going to hell quicker than the Father could clip you round the ear.

So Chris ran home from school on cloudy days. Just in case. He wasn’t really worried. Not really. Not so as he’d worry his mum about it. But just enough that he arrived home breathless and panting.

That Thursday afternoon he’d been kept back. Mrs Browning wanted him to think about getting involved in choir and Chris’d been buzzing with it, enough that he’d not noticed the clouds scudding together as he walked home. By the time he walked along the creek bed two blocks from home Chris was just beginning to realise how dark it was getting and as he walked out from under the big Norfolk pine next to Mikey Harris’s house the sudden warmth of the sun on his back was enough to make him stop. Still. Dead still.

He should have known.

It took every ounce of stubborn he had to turn around. Every molecule of backbone to look up and see the stream of light stealing through the grey.

Chris closed his eyes. He waited.

It was warm. His left hand tingled where it hung outside the sun’s warmth.

Nothing happened.

He heard a car start across the street. Someone had just mown their lawn and the fresh smell was clear in his nostrils.

He took a breath. Then another. The sun was red behind his eyelids and yellow dots swam lazily through his fright.

Slowly Chris opened his eyes.

It was beautiful. Everything around him was grey and cooling with the early evening. But he was lit up. Like someone had made a candle out of
him and put it at the top of the tree. Shining. He was shining. Warm, shining and alive.

Ever since then he’s been able to switch it on, like a light. Like a radio. Broadcasting the joy and freedom he felt in that moment. If he really tried, he’s pretty sure his signal could reach past the sun.

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